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12 Bands to Watch 

Scene's annual roundup of artists worthy of your attention

The Buried Wires

myspace.com/theburiedwires

Maybe it's fallout from the reshuffling spurred on by 2008's Lottery League, but 2009 was a hell of a year for CLE supergroups — Casual Encounters, Non-Fiction, Freedom, the Founding Fathers, Megachurch and the Buried Wires all emerged from previously extant and relatively popular indie bands. It's that last group that concerns us here. The Buried Wires attempted an abortive formation a couple of years ago. Singer-keyboardist Alex Tapié and singer-guitarist Brian Straw (already well known for his achingly moody mash-up of Leonard Cohen and John Fahey in a dustbowl) finally recruited the dream rhythm section of bassist Matthew Gengler (Aloha) and drummer Dan Price (Megachurch) to begin performing this past September. On placing himself, a longtime solo artist, into a collaborative band situation with members of such diverse influences, Straw says, "I find this to be a refreshing approach, as I've had so much control of my projects in the past. I feel really comfortable with this group to just let things unfold naturally." "Naturally" is a good word — the band's sound is an organic fusion of divergent styles that somehow still never veers too far from what one might expect of Straw, recalling at times Townes Van Zandt, late-'80s X (yes, the vocal harmonies between Tapié and Straw are that strong), the Reivers and Gomez. Since Straw is an accomplished sound engineer, recordings began well before gigs. While you wait for those to come out, sample tracks are available on their MySpace site. Ron Kretsch

Corissa Bragg

myspace.com/corissabragg

The temptation to compare Corissa Bragg to Adele is hard to resist. She's young, small, zaftig, cute as a button, and then she opens her mouth to sing and there's that voice that's a couple of thousand packs of Pall Malls too old for her and expressive as all hell. Bragg's been making the rounds of open mics and coffee shops since she was 16, and formed her first band, Corissa and the Priapists, at 19. She eventually jettisoned the band, partly due to creative differences, partly due to her greater ability to travel when it's just her and a guitar — she's performed in New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta and Cincinnati last year. While her slow-paced balladry is a good fit for the casual gigs she's become accustomed to, Bragg is seeking to branch out into club dates while she prepares material for her second CD, tentatively planned for this year or next. But until that all shakes out, Bragg's current disc, This Is Everything I Own, is available at performances, Tremont's Loop coffee shop, and from Amazon and iTunes. Cheapskates can hear three songs for free on her MySpace site, which is also a fine place to see her performance schedule. Ron Kretsch

Casual Encounters

myspace.com/casualencounterz

Singer-guitarist Matthew Rolin, guitarist Cassie Bishop, drummer Lisa Paulovcin and bassist Antoine Henderson embrace the label "emo hippies," simply because there isn't a more accurate way to describe what they do. "I've always been interested in guitarists that didn't just play power chords," says Rolin, trying to describe how Built to Spill and Television influence his songwriting. "You can either write a song where the guitar is bashing out a rhythm, or you can write a song where the guitar is literally playing the major melody. I feel like it's more fun to mix it up between those two things. There's a time for dumb bashing-out stuff, and there's a time for pretty- sounding guitar stuff." Both guitar styles can be heard in Casual Encounters' songs, which switch between time-warp-slow jamming and punchy, ornately organized riffs. Rolin and Bishop's guitars swirl around each other in an exhilarating pop bubble, driven by Paulovcin's bombastic cymbals. In addition to songwriting credits, the group shares a secret rock language. Abandoning technical terms like "chorus" and "bridge," Rolin jokes that they have "the sensual part," "the rocking part" and "the rock riff." "We don't have verse-chorus-verse songs," he says. "We have rock-sexual-rock songs." Danielle Sills

Founding Fathers

myspace.com/foundingfatherscle

As Founding Fathers founding father John Neely relates it, his band's name was listed on the flier for every Compound Fest since that event's inception, to give him a deadline and incentive to get his band together. This strategy perhaps took longer than anticipated — after three consecutive fests with totally nonexistent FFs on the flyer, a band with that name finally played the annual underground gathering for the first time in 2009. Guitarist Neely recruited the Fathers from familiar ground, bringing in his former Tokyo Storm Warning bandmate Stanton Thatcher on drums and his fellow Grog Shop employee/habitué John Kalman on guitar and vocals. Kalman's desire to switch to guitar from bass (his instrument in the late and sorely missed Roué) led to a bass-player search that ended in the enlistment of former journeyman Carol Schumacher-Yachanin, and the band finally started rehearsing its hybrid of post-punk, indie and shoegaze last January. They began an ill-fated recording in the fall — the final recording at the now-defunct Zombie Proof Studio, as it turned out — and are restarting the process this year. All of the FFs are current or former club employees, so they know everyone on the music scene, enabling them to be complete gig sluts. So you don't have to look too far to check them out. Kretsch

Good Touch, Bad Touch

myspace.com/gtbtband

According to the bio on their MySpace site, Good Touch, Bad Touch formed when "members decided to drink themselves to death while gathering weekly to cover Pinkerton and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society." Judging from the tunes the band — which includes bassist Dave Molnar, singer-guitarist Ryan Wilkins, drummer Greg Molnar and guitarist Ryan Yankee — has posted on its MySpace site, that statement seems about right. "Autopilot" is a ragged indie-rock number that pairs jagged, Pavement-like riffs with vocal harmonies. The woozy "Easy Way Out" is the noisiest tune, with guitar solos giving the track a damaged blues flavor. "Catastrophe Headware" reveals the band's Guided by Voices influence, adding the harmonies that Bob Pollard and crew could never deliver. The fragile "Are We Having Fun Yet?" could pass for Elliott Smith. The band's live shows are much looser. As the guys put it, "Our carefully calibrated audience-baiting and verbatim recreations of hoary Catskills comedy routines involving existential despair and ventriloquism grow ever more finely honed." Part of the Davenport Collective group of indie acts that share the same rehearsal space in Lakewood, the band is awaiting final artwork for its debut with a release date penciled in for March. — Jeff Niesel

Charlie Hor$e

myspace.com/charliehorsespit

Local rapper Charlie Hor$e put together an outfit called Moriarity about two years ago and released an EP with them last year. But in 2009, he delivered his first solo record, Radikal Thought Is Evolving, a socially conscious hip-hop album that opens with "Wake Up," a compelling mish-mash of samples and shout-outs. On the tender ballad "I Believe in U," he raps about voting for Barack Obama and his hope that the president can make the world better. Charlie Hor$e isn't afraid to use the n-word or drop the f-bomb to get his point across, something he does effectively on "U Ain't ... Nigga," a simmering tune fueled more by rage than righteousness. Teaming up with locals D. Roof and Jus Mic gives Charlie Hor$e a certain credibility, but the guy's such a sharp, focused rapper, his sincerity is never in doubt. When he raps "This is revolution music" over the sound of a rattling drum machine, you believe him. He has already started working on a follow-up to Radikal Thought Is Evolving and hopes to have it, along with a mixtape called The Epidemic, out this year. "I'm not interested in begging for deals and going the major label route," he says, adding that he's teamed up with D. Roof to form the Board of Edutainment label. "We started our own movement and got our own fan base. We're focused on pushing our music and establishing ourselves. We're looking at saturating Ohio and the Midwest and going from there. My goal is to release something every six months. The scene here is vibrant and diverse. I think there just needs to be more unity." — Niesel

The Lighthouse and the Whaler

thelighthouseandthewhaler.com

Nautical masthead aside, the three mates in the Lighthouse and the Whaler (Michael LoPresti, Evan Storey and Aaron Smith) actually first met at a park in the waning days of 2008. The trio began jamming and discovered they had a natural chemistry for acoustic folk — a warm, feral musical fur that retains its outdoorsy feel on their 2009 full-length debut. "Our sound has an organic, earthy tone," says singer-guitarist LoPresti. "We've been heavily influenced by the landscape and culture of our city, but our use of multiple instruments and harmonies has helped to set us apart from the traditional ideas of what Cleveland is known for." The group's indie-folk pop has offered two excellent additions to the Cleveland soundscape — 2008's A Whisper, A Clamour EP and 2009's The Lighthouse and the Whaler. The latter is a 10-song set on which the threesome expands their serene sounds, adding guitars, mandolin, piano, glockenspiel, violin, trumpet, melodica and drums to a wildwood drenched in melancholic syrup, home to everyone from Bob Dylan to Bonnie "Prince" Billy. "We try to create a relaxed environment, using our orchestrations to fill the room with powerful melodies that get you caught up in the sound," says LoPresti. — Keith Gribbins

MEGACHURCH

myspace.com/megachurchofcleveland

Megachurch worship the bass guitar and the groove. The group burst onto the Cleveland scene last spring with a sudden barrage of gigs. They're led by Machine Go Boom's Mickey Machine and anchored by Machine drummer Dan Price (continuing the combustible theme, he also played in Cleveland's This Is Exploding), who recruited Brian Hill to fulfill Machine's longtime musical fantasy: a two-bass group. "I used to play in a proggy kind of band," says Machine. "We had two basses briefly, but it didn't go anywhere. I always wanted to go back to it. It's just a lot of fun to play bass." The unconventional group's driving indie rock doesn't sound anything like extra-bass precedents Ned's Atomic Dustbin or Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom." Their themes — though not music — are closer to Cleveland iconoclasts Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival. With no vocalist, they fill their giant grooves with samples of preachers delivering fevered sermons in several languages. Between songs, Hill serves up snippets of classic Kiss stage banter. Singers have volunteered for the band, but Machine likes it the way it is: "We've talked about it, and there's really not a need for a vocalist. We can say everything we want to say with samples." Before their Studio-A-Rama set last summer, Machine said, "We'll just kind of do what we do. We'll dress up and play some silly shit." — D.X. Ferris

The Modern Electric

myspace.com/themodernelectric

This Cleveland four-piece calls its folk-noir sound "cinematic pop," and listening to the band's 2009 self-titled record, you can hear the soundtrack to an eternal Ohio autumn. Piano keys drop like leaves, warm acoustic guitars waft in the breeze and frontman Garrett Komyati sings with the nervous energy of the Shins' James Mercer. Songs like "Where I Belong," "The Anti Sing-along" and "Filming Our Favorite Lies" feel like melodic nostalgia (just like the band's old-world name) — fresh and timeless, universal and personal. Perhaps the most impressive part is that the four friends just graduated from Willoughby South High School — Komyati (vocals, guitar, piano), Matthew Childers (bass, drums), Bryan Lecky (guitar) and Michael O'Brien (drums). In 2008 at the 12th annual Tri-C High School Rock Off, the band placed third. They wrote, recorded, produced and mixed last year's debut entirely themselves. These wunderkind have a keen eye for film too. The group is producing a documentary, in collaboration with director John Heberle, about the recording of their album, while writing material for a sophomore release. — Gribbins

Ohio Sky

myspace.com/theohiosky

Ohio Sky rebooted in late 2008, built steam in 2009, and they're set to join the city's A-list in 2010. After three years of aimless noodling, the group reinvented itself as a rock powerhouse when guitarist Vince DiFranco moved to vocals. He made his recording debut on this year's indie-released Apophis EP, immediately establishing himself as one of the scene's strongest singers. And he's only been improving since, as you can hear on new tracks posted on the band's MySpace page — assuming you haven't caught one of their headlining sets at the Roc Bar or a recent opening slot on the Papa Roach/Halestorm show at House of Blues. The band's developing dynamic sound has something for fans of indie rock, instrumental metal and psychedelic — but concise — jamming. DiFranco says the band plans to refine that mix on a full-length debut it will record this spring. He says the album will have tight tunes from the EP, thrashed-out scream fests and a couple of six-minute sprawls. "It'll have its spacey moments and heavy moments," says DiFranco. "But it'll be a very fluid experience." — Ferris

Carley Tanchon

myspace.com/carleytanchon

Chagrin Falls native Carley Tanchon may not live in the area anymore — after getting her degree at Boston's Berklee College and touring for a year and a half with a show group, she's settled in Nashville — but her heart's still here. Whenever she returned to perform in Cleveland last year, enthusiastic family, friends and fans have turned out. The fan base is likely to keep growing for this smart, savvy, hard-working and talented musician who released her debut album Peridot this past summer. Her work has a sophistication that belies her 23 years. Her well-crafted tunes have depth and emotional resonance, and she sings with a self-assured expansiveness that allows her to range stylistically over tunes as diverse as the torchy "Don't Chill the Flame," the intricate jazz-blues strut of "Waiting," country-tinged rocker "Image of a Man," the pensive, acoustic-flavored "Fool's Gold" and the dark, slow burn of "This Home." Her lyrics demonstrate a mature and compassionate worldview that's light years beyond adolescent navel-gazing; they're accessible without being facile. Tanchon has been performing since she was a preschooler and writing songs since she was 13, encouraged by her singing, guitar-playing mom. "I always knew that what I wanted to do was perform the music I was writing," she says. "I have to tell people things that are important to me. All I aim to do is be sincere and genuine. I want to connect with people, and music is a great avenue to do that."

Anastasia Pantsios

Simeon Soul Charger

myspace.com/simeonsoulcharger

On their 2009 self-titled debut EP, Simeon Soul Charger capture their distinctive cosmic gospel. For six songs, the Akron five-piece orchestrates arena rock you might associate with Muse or Spiritualized, backed by grandiose guitar sweeps, electronics, pizzicato strings and singer-songwriter Aaron Brook's operatic screams, which go from Matthew Bellamy to Jeff Buckley. You'd never realize Brooks once fronted Cleveland's pop-punk pranksters Trendy from 2000-2008. Live, the five-piece can go from moody, atmospheric rockers (guitars, drums, cello and piano) to performance artists backed by vocal ensembles and painters. "We always try to create an event," says basisst Jim Garibaldi, who co-founded the band with Brooks in the dingy basement of JBs in Kent. "We've brought in a fully masked and robed eight-piece choir with horns and hand percussionists, and a cello is usually a staple at our local shows. Our merch girls dress up like Greek goddesses, and occasionally you'll see an artist painting onstage." With the addition of lead guitarist Rick Phillips, Simeon Soul Charger are set for a serious performance schedule in 2010, with European dates already slated. But mostly you'll see these sound sorcerers pounding the Midwest pavement in their 2000 Dodge Ram van, affectionately named Carl the Friendly Polar Bear, with a new EP and full-length record slated for 2010. — Gribbins

music@clevescene.com

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